While I was having lunch with Mark Connolly, Fashion Director for Condé Nast Traveler, he smiled mischievously and said, ‘I have a shoot that would be perfect for you! What do you think about shooting a model looking like a tropical bird, zip-lining through the Costa Rican rainforest?’ My eyes lit up as I responded enthusiastically, ‘Yes sounds like an adventure’. Mark was excited and he didn’t know any other photographer who was game. He explained his vision was to style the model like an exotic tropical bird mixed with an Amazonian princess, flying high through the rainforest canopy. I immediately thought of one of my regular models Nanda, a model with an exotic mix of American Indian and Thai. We needed someone who looked the part but also would embrace the idea and not have a fear of heights.
Arriving in Costa Rica, the crew drove up to the Vista Al Golfo Lodge. A surreal Tyrolean-looking building that appeared as though it had been transported from the Swiss Alps. Not at all what you would expect to find in Costa Rica. The property had spectacular views down the mountain towards the coast. And the restaurant courtyard hosted a huge fig tree, which felt like something from the film Avatar. We felt spiritual tucked in her embracing branches watching the sunset. The first day was spent scouting and getting familiar with the zip-lines. Once you begin your decent, there is no getting off until the end. We flew over 30 lines and 11 waterfalls, hundreds of feet above at great speed.
This was exhilarating and going to be an incredible shoot. On the shoot day, Nanda looked amazing. Dawn, the make-up artist, drew Maori style tattoos onto Nanda’s arms and braided her hair creating a Mohawk. Mark created vividly colored, feathered Mohawk headpieces to emphasize the look, which brilliantly complimented the Rodarte and Manish Arora garments. Our guides, who regularly worked on the zip-lines, carried backpacks with clothes and lights. Whenever the model needed to change on the platforms, the guides would politely turn their backs. Nanda was brilliant and would quickly strip under a big sheet.
This shot was taken at the end of the day at sunset and you can see a zip line in the distance. This zip line is separate from the main ones as it’s the longest and fastest going up to 45 miles per hour. We shot using the sunset as a rim light and a magnum dish on a 7b for the key light. This was to fill the foreground and darken the sunset.
Another of my favorites was the image with the horses. We woke early this day to get the morning light through the trees… The horses live in the stables on the property and are used to take people up to the zip lines. The property is known for its horse riding and zip-lining while we were there one of the horses gave birth, which was quite phenomenal. In this photo, we added a blue gel to the light and smoke to feel like morning mist on the water. The horses stayed quite still and I snapped this shot as the far left horse turned its neck adding a sense of movement. I shot using my Nikons and Profoto 7B’s with a series of grid spots.